By interfering in the lives of adult children, we only make things worse

By interfering in the lives of adult children, we only make things worse

The 35-year-old man received a phone call, saying something, but there was no emotion on his face. After work, he has to go to his mother’s house on the other side of town. He should go, but he didn’t want to. His mother, who lives alone, asked him to look at the faucet because it was leaking.

But, of course, he was not worried about the broken faucet. After all, the mother is not poor, could have called a team of plumbers, an hour later all the problems would have been solved. And the son is not a greedy man, he would have paid for any services. But the faucet is just an excuse. She wants to see him, so she comes up with a good reason to see him.

“You see, my mother and I had a great relationship, and as a child, and during my school years, and even in the institute. We were friends with each other, never quarreled. And we did repairs at my grandmother’s house, and rolled up jars of canned goods, and watched the same movies”, says the man.

But my mother was very different. She worked a lot, not because she was forced to, but because she had energy boiling inside her, and she was a perfectionist who could not stand it if someone did a bad job. She thought she could do it faster on her own. And it didn’t matter how much work she had to do. She was very appreciated at work.

She divorced my father, but remarried my stepfather, they had a daughter, my younger sister. Mom stayed at home with her, but at the same time she graduated from courses of sewing and accounting. After maternity she was promoted at work, she went abroad for the first time, I remember in detail how we came to the bank to open a plastic card for her. And how she dreamed that she would save a lot of money in that account. The life was boiling and bustling. I was proud of my mother.

And then everything started to fade away, like a fog.

Her job stopped bringing in large sums of money, she became nervous, and conflicts with her stepfather began. He began to drink and soon left the family. Mom was no longer floating on wings, she was increasingly moody and embittered. Her company closed and she found another one, but she was treated very differently there.

A daughter grew up and from the age of 18 she chose to live separately. I got married. And mother was left to live alone in her apartment.

But my mother was a strong woman and did not give up. She started to work remotely (thanks to her profession). But sitting at home all the time, she got very fat and started complaining about her health. And then she started complaining that everyone abandoned her, lived their lives, came here rarely. I began to hear more often that she has nothing to be happy about.

The old age? I don’t think so. She’s not that old. She’s only 55 years old. But she doesn’t have the light of life in her.

And the worst part is that she focuses on me, on my problems, wants to know some details about the life of my mother-in-law and father-in-law. She gives me a million pieces of advice on how to change for the better. She worries that my job is degrading, that I need to find another (or better yet: get a second degree). And of course she start advice me that I would have found a better wife (but now that there is a child, it’s too late to think about it).

Sometimes she sighs dejectedly, they say, not how she imagined life of her son. She may be right. But not everything in life we can change.

It turns out that my mother and I existed perfectly well as long as there was a certain distance between us, even though we lived under the same roof for 20 years. Neither of us ever showed a sense of jealousy, we cared about each other’s opinions.

Do you know what the main problem of parents and grown children is? Over time, children stop asking questions, but parents keep answering them.

I did not need tutelage or control. I studied well, did my homework by myself, and wrote my diploma. I also did not beg her for money for my education, I found a job on my own. I never got into any trouble. We existed perfectly well in this mode.

Then it was as if my mother let go of what she was holding on to: her job, her career, her man, her daughter, her community of friends and colleagues. Now it turns out I alone have to replace them all.

But I can’t do that. I don’t have that much reserve of strength, I don’t have that much energy. Every time I leave her with a deep sense of guilt that I can’t spend more time with her, that I don’t have the ability to buy her an apartment in the house next door.

I want to help her, but I want to keep my distance. One day I asked my mother: “Do you want to go to a resort? I’ll pay for everything”. And she replied that she was absolutely not interested and didn’t need it. She even took offense and said: “All you want to do is send me away”.

She doesn’t go anywhere and still works remotely for three hours a day. And then she stays up late into the night watching TV channels with all kinds of junk sales. It boggles my mind how someone with a degree in engineering and a powerful career can do this.

And here I am reminded of a famous statement by the great German philosopher and psychologist Erich Fromm:

There are few parents in the world who have the courage and independence to worry more about their child’s happiness than about his success.

I see this story as a manifestation of selfishness and the imputation of guilt. That kind of behavior doesn’t tie a child down or hold him back, it only pushes him even further away.

This is why it is important for all of us to be self-sufficient individuals right up until we are very old. We don’t need to try to make ourselves happy at someone else’s expense, even if it’s our own child. It is important to be involved in many areas of life, to have hobbies, companionship, and not to demand it from someone who is obligated by right of kinship. These are all invisible threads that keep us balanced and afloat. As soon as we cut them off or let them out of our hands, we become a rock on else’s neck.


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